A Wolf for a SpellFeatured
Since she was a pup, Zima has been taught to fear humans—especially witches—but when her family is threatened, she has no choice but to seek help from the witch Baba Yaga.
Baba Yaga never does magic for free, but it just so happens that she needs a wolf’s keen nose for a secret plan she’s brewing… Before Zima knows what’s happening, the witch has cast a switching spell and run off into the woods, while Zima is left behind in Baba Yaga’s hut—and Baba Yaga’s body!
Meanwhile, a young village girl named Nadya is also seeking the witch’s help, and when she meets Zima (in Baba Yaga’s form), they discover that they face a common enemy. With danger closing in, Zima must unite the wolves, the witches and the villagers against an evil that threatens them all.
I love a good Baba Yaga story, and A WOLF FOR A SPELL delivers. In this version, Baba Yaga is both good and bad. She strives to protect her forest, the same forest Zima lives in and Nadya loves, but she also dislikes getting involved. She prefers to stay on the sideline, even when something important is on the line. When she meets Zima, spends time as a wolf, and later gets to know the true tsar heir, Ivan, she finds that being passive doesn't mean being an innocent party and must face her fears to complete her mission. Zima and Nadya, though both less morally ambiguous, have similar journeys. They must be honest about their own strengths and faults and learn to overcome fear together.
The illustrations blew me away. I can't remember a time when I've read an illustrated middle grade fairy tale that featured positive fat representation. Katerina, Nadya's unofficial older sister who is the bride-to-be of the tsar after being an orphan herself, is depicted as fat and beautiful. She was without a doubt my favorite secondary character. I can't count the number of instances of fatphobia I've found in magical middle grade stories, and this was a breath of fresh air. Young readers will be able to see that fat girls can be heroes or princesses or tsarinas if they want.
With magic and folklore abound, A WOLF FOR A SPELL demonstrates the importance of overcoming prejudices, the power of teamwork, and overcoming fear.